Author: Barrett Snyder
Coaching is not linear or logical and it does not always make sense on paper. Presuming a logical progression when coaching an athlete or training a client is extremely silly, regardless of how accomplished of a coach someone might be. Coaching does not have a GPS route, a list of directions that can be printed from MapQuest, or a large map that tells us what to say, what to do and how to do it optimally. It is important to understand that when coaching, we are dealing with an extremely complex and unpredictable system: the human body. Each human does not require or possess the same universal requirements as another. In addition, the same stimulus for one athlete will not stimulate the same response as it would for another athlete, or even the same athlete at a different point in time. As badly as some of us want to illustrate a template to apply to everyone, it is not optimal and it is not possible for maximum growth.
One of the biggest fallacies when it comes to coaching and training athletes is that “it worked for me, therefore it must work for him or her.” This is an illogical and flawed way of thinking, often causing more harm than good. However, many coaches continue to operate under this notion and advocate for a single training system. By operating in this manner, we are neglecting the individualized approach that is necessary to maximize training, performance and human potential. It is not uncommon to see some coaches having their players perform the same exact workout or speak to their players in the same exact tone. I believe this to be ineffective coaching, as well as extremely dangerous. Each and every one of us functions differently, moves differently, recovers differently, absorbs information differently and possesses a different genetic foundation. We must move away from the prototypical spreadsheet approach to coaching and training by trying to individualize and humanize our players as much as we can.
The argument often presented is that some individuals require the same exercise and their programs should reflect that as a result. I have no issue with that logic and sometimes that is in fact the case. However, as coaches we owe it to our athletes to explore every possible avenue to maximize their athletic ability and on field performance. This includes exercise selection and exercise programming. For instance, lets look at the “chest press” which is a fairly common exercise for athletes to perform. The real question then becomes, in what form do we assign the chest press in the athletes program? We must first complete a needs analysis, which may include some of the questions that follow: What is this individual’s short and long-term goal? What is their medical history? How long have they been training? How is their shoulder mobility and do they have any anterior capsule impingement? Once those questions have been answered, we can now as a coach dig into our toolbox and prescribe various exercises that best reflect the needs of each athlete. Examples could range from neutral dumbbell chest press, barbell board press, standard push-up, dumbbell floor press, band press and swiss bar press. As a coach, more often than not, you will be asked to adjust to your athlete’s needs on the fly and implement changes or substitutions without adequate preparation. Therefore, by having as many tools in your toolbox as possible, you will not hesitate or panic whenspontaneous changes need to occur.
Although programming is without question a large contributing factor to an athlete’s success, we mustn’t forget the possibility that sometimes the problem or even solution is not what is in the designated program, but solely who is conveying the program. The personal interaction and relationship that a coach and athlete have can sometimes be of greater significance than the actual program itself. This can prove to be troubling at times because if an athlete is not seeing the results necessary, we are unsure if it is due to the actual program, or the voice conveying the program. This is why seeking a personal individualized approach and relationship with each athlete is essential. We have to know how the athlete responds best to the information being presented to them and the manner in which it is being presented. Like anything, this is a process that involves time, attention to detail, as well as trial and error. As a coach, you have to wear a variety of different hats (mentor, friend, listener, counselor, disciplinarian, advocate) and you have to be able to transition from one hat to the next at a moments notice. Sometimes five people will require you to wear the same hat and sometimes five people will require you to wear five different hats. Similar to life, coaching can be anything but predictable.